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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Evan Treacy/INPHO Lucy Quinn celebrates her goal.

Lucy Quinn writes name in history books as Republic of Ireland cruise to victory

Life after Vera Pauw began with a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland in front of a record 35,944 at Aviva Stadium.

Republic of Ireland 3

Northern Ireland 0

LUCY QUINN MADE history and the Republic of Ireland made light work of Northern Ireland as life after Vera Pauw began with a comfortable victory to kickstart their Nations League campaign.

The Birmingham City forward struck a sweet volley on the half-hour mark to become the first women’s international to score at the Aviva Stadium.

It was a precise, controlled and powerful execution.

After the controversy and fallout that came with Pauw’s exit following the World Cup, Quinn’s goal was an emphatic way to begin a new era.

Set-pieces still proved crucial, of course, Quinn’s effort coming from a Katie McCabe corner and Lily Agg’s 85th-minute header to make it 3-0 also on the back of a fine delivery from the Ireland captain and Ballon d’Or nominee.

Kyra Carusa, brought into the Ireland set-up by Pauw, killed any chance of a Northern Ireland revival when she capitalised on a mix-up between goalkeeper Shannon Turner and centre back Rebecca Holloway to finish into an empty net from distance with 20 minutes to go.

The Ireland striker had worn down the defender by that point, her work-rate matched by an incessant ability to get her body in front and dictate that battle.

Tyler Toland, an outcast under Pauw, returned after a four-year absence and slotted into a midfield partnership with Megan Connolly that also freed the excellent Denise O’Sullivan to make more o

It’s a midfield trio that still needs work but the raw materials are clear to see.

The 35,944 – a record attendance for a women’s international – certainly enjoyed it.

No doubt interim boss Eileen Gleeson did too.

Ireland’s opener summed up the undeniable logic of having O’Sullivan as the most advanced midfielder. She may not have the blistering pace required to burst away from defenders when she does get on the half-turn but her ability to find those spaces and sustain attacks is crucial.

It was evident in the build up to Quinn breaking the deadlock after Ireland were able to build up a head of steam and put on pressure with two well-executed corners.

It was O’Sullivan who had drifted across to the right side in the 29th minute and was alert to win a second ball when Northern Ireland couldn’t clear their lines.

Her anticipation bought the yard required to win possession and then she had the composure to drift back across to the middle with the ball stuck to her feet.

Rather than go backwards and then look for a ball into the channel, or attempt a difficult through pass when Ireland’s forwards weren’t set for a run behind, the North Carolina Courage star simply kept hold of the ball.

It was only a few seconds, but they were valuable and allowed Ireland get into an attacking shape. Her pass wide to McCabe meant Ireland had bodies in the box when her cross from the left was deflected for a corner.

Caitlin Hayes, the Celtic defender who grew up in Warrington, making her debut having this week got international clearance, should have been the one to score that first Aviva Stadium goal when her clever movement led to a free header at the back post.

Her powerful header from Quinn’s corner was well saved by Turner, who got a strong hand to push wide for another set-piece. Quinn then sauntered over to the edge of the box to allow McCabe deliver an in-swinger from the opposite side.

Not that she was an uninterested observer.

The Ireland captain’s delivery was met by Rachel Furness but her headed clearance, despite having a bit of power behind it, arrowed invitingly for Quinn. She didn’t have time to think, all she had to do was make sure she sorted out her feet and produce the technique required to get a shot on target.

The connection was crisp and while a slight glance off the outstretched foot of Furness then helped it on its way Ireland’s pressure paid off.

It all happened in an instant for Quinn but the moment – and its significance is one that will stay with her forever.

Set-pieces proved so valuable yet again for Ireland and that threat was clear but so too was the control in general play as a result of a midfield with balance.

Connolly, deployed as left-sided centre back during the World Cup, was pushed back into the middle alongside Toland in an attempt to give the home side a platform to dictate on their terms.

Diane Caldwell, at the centre of controversy this week after providing a cuttingly honest assessment of Pauw’s reign, was on the left side of a three-woman defence.

Hayes was on the right, filling the void of the injured Niamh Fahey, and her passing range was impressive with a couple of switches of play to change the course of Ireland’s attack.

But it also seemed as if the work done during her first week of involvement had been delivered with a clear and concise message.

Time and again when receiving possession she simply opened her body and looked down the passing lane in front to find either O’Sullivan drifting across or into the body of Carusa who was winning the physical battle with Holloway.

The Ireland striker gave her a torrid time with her runs into space as well as showing to feet and holding her off. Perhaps this was in the Northern Ireland defender’s mind as she chased down the ball that led to the crucial second goal.

Quinn almost delivered it on the stroke of half-time when she had a shot cleared off the line by Sarah McFadden, but it eventually arrived in the 70th minute when McCabe’s lofted pass into space was seized upon by Carusa after Hollowat’s miscued her clearance.

Northern Ireland’s resolve was broken and a third arrived five minutes before the end when substitute Agg arrowed a header between the legs of Demi Vance and in off the post.

Ireland are up and running in the Nations League.

And as they walked the four corners of Aviva Stadium after full time it became very clear that any of the talk that the fallout from Pauw’s exit had soured the relationship with their growing fanbase is not based in reality.

That much was made clear with the rapturous applause.

Republic of Ireland: Brosnan; Hayes, Louise Quinn, Caldwell (Atkinson 89); Payne (Larkin 59), Connolly (Agg 82), Toland, O’Sullivan, McCabe (captain); Lucy Quinn (Barrett 83), Carusa (Whelan 89).

Northern Ireland: Turner; Magee, McFadden, Holloway (Rafferty 82), Vance; Hamilton (Caldwell 72), Furness (McCarron 82), Callaghan (captain) (Wade 72), Wilson; Magill, Andrews.

Referee: H Guteva (Bul).

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